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Catherine Chan

Marketing Manager at Integral Group Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia
Visual Artist in Vancouver, British Columbia

Catherine Chan says all her different educational and professional experiences contributed to who she is as a person. With a Master’s of Science in Soil Science (University of Guelph), a Bachelor of Science in Biogeography (University of Toronto), and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Emily Carr University of Art and Design), Chan has served in a variety of roles over her career, including as a soil biochemistry technician for Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, a project administrator for Urban Systems Ltd. and a project coordinator for Taendem Agency. She currently works as a marketing manager for Integral Group Canada and as a Vancouver-based visual artist.

1. How do you incorporate geography into your work?

The way I tend to resolve a problem is to look for patterns and connections while I conduct research. This is really useful because when you look at the world, you realize there are connections between everything.

As a marketing manager, some of my responsibilities are reactionary to the more immediate needs of the company, while others are more proactive and enable us to broaden our reach. In both of these instances, it helps to have an array of problem-solving techniques that I developed while studying geography.

The themes I explore in my visual art revolve around subjects like environmental and social sustainability, as well as the idea of geologic time. These subjects are definitely related to my geography education and training.

2. In what ways did your programs prepare you for your career?

Partly because I am more research minded in my approach, there are a number of indirect ways in which my education helped me transition into the real world. During my undergraduate studies, I took a few field courses and really enjoyed them. Understanding this about myself was valuable because a large part of my graduate research involved fieldwork, and it also pushed me to work as an assistant in the artic for a couple of summers. You begin to see how things translate from the classroom into your professional life, even though it may seem messy at times.

3. Looking back, what would you have done differently?

Perhaps it would have been useful to know that it is okay to talk to people who have careers in areas I was interested in. I would have appreciated more information on how they got to where they are and what it is that they do in their careers.

4. What skills do you wish you learned during your education that would help you in the job market today?

Developing effective networking skills would have been really practical. Perhaps they teach that more now, but networking is something that I have had to learn on my own. What I mean by networking is being able to make connections with people across different disciplines. Making that initial contact is something that a lot of people feel hesitant to do—I know I certainly do—but once you make that connection, you realize that you share a lot of similarities with others.

5. Do you have any advice for students wishing to attain a fulfilling career in geography?

Be open about where your career takes you because it can bring you anywhere. The nice thing about geography is that it allows for many different perspectives. In my own experience, it was more fulfilling to see where my interests and skillsets took me rather than sticking to one specialty that I liked but had no real passion for.

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